Volume 15, Issue 1: Ex Libris
Intervarsity Press, 2002
Anyone taking a peek at the modern movie industry can tell that it's a mess. If the movie isn't virtually equal to
pornography, then it's simply stupid and not worth the film it's printed on (notice that either of these categories I just mentioned can
conjure up the names of dozens of films from the last five years). But even in wading through the bog that is modern Hollywood,
there are islands of hope. Not every movie is worthy of the dung-heap. But how are we to distinguish between the filth and the gems?
Brian Godawa's new book, Hollywood
Worldviews, seeks to fulfill this task. Right from the outset, Godawa divides
most Christians into two camps: cultural anorexics and cultural gluttonsthose who refuse to associate with pop culture and
those who swallow it without chewing. Both are opposite sides of Aristotle's fabled golden mean, and so of course we should aim
for the middle. That, at least, is Godawa's argument.
The book methodically describes the basic worldviews found in moviesexistentialism and postmodernismas well as
a few other less pervasive and obvious players. Godawa then examines how the movies deal with these worldviews. To a
large extent, Godawa succeeds in his task. He offers an excellent summary of the various worldviews presupposed in popular
movies along with insights into how these relate to our own situations.
Godawa also spends about a third of his book dealing with how movies deal with topics of spirituality. How is the
devil portrayed in Hollywood? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? He also deals specifically with faith, since it is an essential
Christian virtue. In many movies, he shows the reader, faith is shallow, useless, and insubstantial.
One of the admitted problems with Godawa's book is that he doesn't mention what's wrong with the movies he analyzes.
For example, his analysis of Hannibal (2001) might lead the reader to think that this cannibalistic bloodbath was a
worthwhile movieafter all, it has Last Supper and Ascension imagery. Godawa tries to make this clear in the first chapter that inclusion
in his book does not equal endorsement of a movie's contents, but this is easily forgotten in the fascination of the plot devices.
The worst thing about Godawa's book is that it is only 208 pages. The analysis given is so insightful that more is
almost immediately wanted. I found myself wondering what he thought about more recent movies and whether he noticed
certain themes or Christian elements. This problem is partially solved, however, by the mention of Godawa's website,
www.godawa.com, where he has added more depth to almost every chapter.
Overall, I found this book fascinating. Godawa's ability to dissect a movie and draw out the worldviews involved in
its creation is amazing. I didn't always agree with his analysispersonally, I am still rather put off by any drawing out of
Christian imagery from The Matrixbut it was still good to see someone thinking about movies.
Freddy the Pig
Walter R. Brooks
Currently printed by Overlook Press, 2002
In the world of children's literature, a good deal of what the last century has produced is worth hardly more than kindling.
An outstanding exception to this, however, is a series of books written by Walter R. Brooks, the creator of the famous Mr.
Ed, known simply as the "Freddy the Pig" books.
As one might guess from the title, the series chronicles the adventures of a pig whose Christian name is Freddy. But Freddy
is no ordinary pig. In the words of the New York Times Book Review, Freddy is a "Renaissance Pig." His exploits range from
being a cowboy to a newspaper publisher, from pilot to detective, from politician to poetthough not always a very good one.
Along with his friends, he lives on a farm in upstate New York owned by a Mr. Bean. The range of characters is immense: Jinx the
cat, Mrs. Wiggins (cow), Uncle Wesley (duck), and Mr. Boomschmidt, the owner of the circus that regularly visits the area.
At times, the Freddy books offer an excellent satire of aspects of America in the first part of the last century.
Wiggins For President (lately retitled Freddy the
Politician) offers such a look, touching such subjects as democracy, ballot fraud, and
dictatorships. But the books should not be thought of as just satire. Brooks seems to be out to enjoy himself and help his readers
enjoy themselves too. Every chapter produces a chuckle. These become more common with familiarity.
Of course, like any fantasy, disbelief must in some ways be suspended. The animals do talk, and the human beings do
not see this as the least bit unusual. Freddy's friend, Uncle Ben, invents spaceships and atomic-powered station wagons.
At the time of his death in 1958, Brooks had written twenty-six Freddy books. I can heartily recommend any of them for both children
and adults. Those on the lookout for such things can be informed that Freddy and his companions make excellent read-aloud tales.